Saturday, April 23, 2011

Appreciation of Love Musical Concert: Parents' Day Celebration



Get tickets for your parents to watch the show. Appreciation of Love Musical Concert is a family entertainment featuring some of the most popular Taiwanese and Singapore artistes.

Catch Chen Zhao Rong & Ye Quan Zhen on NTV 7's Taiwan Tornado on every mon-fri, 4.30pm.

Both Chen & Ye will be performing on stage for the first time in Malaysia.

Tickets available at www.rwgenting.com and www.ticketpro.com.my.

Visit www.gfworld.com.my for more information.

Friday, April 22, 2011

1Melayu 1Bumi: The End Game

Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that the '1Melayu, 1Bumi' movement proposed by the right wing non-governmental organisation Perkasa will be very bad for the country.

"I hope it doesn't happen. It's very bad for Malaysia."

"If we go ahead with this, there will be a two party system in politics. If one is Malay-dominated and the other is Chinese-dominated, it will be a disaster for this country."

I could not agree more with Dr Mahathir that the 1Melayu 1Bumi movement is a bad thing for Malaysia. It is a disaster for the image of this country. If the movement materialises and if the government does not outlaw it the way it did to Hindraf, the administration will lose its credibility for being selective in prosecuting organizations which can incite racial hatred.

But the hands of the administration are tied. How can the UMNO led government take stern action against the extreme segment of its own members? Almost 90 percent of Perkasa members are associated with the party directly or indirectly.

However, there is one thing that Dr Mahathir might be wrong. The ultimate results may not a coalition led by the Malay and other led by the Chinese. Both coalitions, Pakatan and Barisan, are led by Malay leaders.

Chinese in this country have long accepted the Malay leadership. However, they are merely choosing between a lesser evil between the two.

Hence, no amount of threats is going to make them change their mind like before. The political reality today is the core of our political contestation is between two sides of Malay leadership - one which wants to accommodate the other races as equals (ketuanan rakyat) and the other which wants to maintain status quo (ketuanan Melayu).

It is sad to note Perkasa, Utusan Malaysia and Dr Mahathir are not helping the UMNO led coalition by turning more aggressive and critical against the Chinese. Chinese voters are merely exercising their rights to vote in a constitutional democracy. The federal constitution gave them a right to choose and they are merely using their choice (whether rightly or wrongly).

Barisan Nasional, especially UMNO, must learn to respect their choice and constitutional rights. I believe PM Najib fully understands this situation and respects the wishes of the people. Unlike Mahathir, at least he did not use threat against the community.

PM Najib must be careful too. The fact that Pembela came out to demonstrate against the Christians three days before the Sarawak polling day speaks volume of their 'good' intention against the PM - despite knowing fully well that their action may cause worse electoral setback for the Barisan Nasional candidates contesting in urban areas.

Hence, it is very important for PM Najib to put a lash on the extreme right wing forces. Make no mistake that they are not helping him.

Mahathir should not be too worried about the Malay dominated coalition versus Chinese dominated coalition. The struggle should be between a pro-reform movement and an anti-reform movement. These movements cut across coalitions and political parties. PM Najib should pick the right movement to lead so that nothing unexpected or drastic would happen to his leadership of this country.

A polarisation this country should worry more is the class divide. Poor are getting poorer and rich are getting richer. Malaysians demand power is barely a third of some developed countries. Job opportunities are becoming narrower and scarce.

Socio-economic polarisation is something bigger than the political race divide. Malaysians of all races are becoming more mature politically especially urban folks. They are not going to buy the lame Malay unity proposal peddled by Utusan Malaysia.

Malaysians are being burdened with higher cost of living, limited job opportunities, low demand power, high property prices, low wages, crime, corruption and other teething problems. These issues and problems must be solved before any coalition can lay a claim of uninterrupted power.

Politicians ignore these socio-economic vital signs at their own peril. PM Najib must do something against these extreme right wing forces. He must do it now and do it fast. Otherwise, their actions will consume his premiership in the next few years.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Consequences of Sarawak State Elections

To keep it short and simple, ‎it is a bruising win for Barisan Nasional in Sarawak state elections. An unofficial report highlighted a major drop in Barisan Nasional's popular support from 63% in 2006 to just 55% in 2011.

A drop of 8% is significant enough to jolt the ruling coalition. Opposition has successfully doubled their seats tally to 16 although it is still a long way from the coveted 24 seats required to breach the 2/3 wall.

Some of the consequences for BN:

1) The Sarawak outcome has effectively cancelled out the gains PM Najib had enjoyed in the last couple by-elections. The fact that the coalition has performed worse than 2006 is going to put additional pressure on his leadership of UMNO and Barisan Nasional which has a history of pushing out leaders who perform poorly at the polls. Abdullah Badawi regime lost just 8 seats in the 2006 state elections.

2) General election which has been slated for mid-half of this year may be shelved temporarily until the coalition has digested the post-election analysis for Sarawak. According to UMNO Youth Chief Khairy Jamaluddin, the leadership transition promise in Sarawak must be fulfilled as soon as possible. The speed in which Taib installed himself as a Chief Minister of Sarawak is going to derail the promise.

Najib cannot afford to call a GE without solving the issue of leadership transition and a leader overstaying his presence. However, it is going to be very difficult to force down Taib. His party has just delivered a clean slate in the state elections.

Taib has a firm grip on PBB. Any attempt to replace him with an UMNO friendly CM is going to upset Taib's faction in PBB and trigger a civil war in PBB. It may even worsen the situation for BN in the 13th GE. I doubt Najib would take this risk. He would not risk losing between 5-8 parliamentary seats in Sarawak by calling for an immediate GE too by June/July. Hence, the stand-off is expected to continue until at least 2013.

3) The outcome may put both Gerakan and MCA in a very difficult position if the PM calls a GE this year. Both parties, like SUPP, have been talking about reform and change since their stunning defeats in the 2008 GE but did very little to convince anyone the parties have been reformed. How long more can UMNO carry the burden of winning elections to ensure that the BN coalition stays in power?

4) PM Najib is open to more internal attacks and sabotage. His 1Malaysia slogan appears to be less effective in Sarawak compared to West Malaysia. However, the outcome of Sarawak elections is going to change the dynamics here.

Sarawak is a good mid-term review for any political parties hoping to win big in the next GE.

Najib needs to recruit, use and retain good people if the he wants to reverse the momentum.

Pakatan parties are going to come charging at him. The complete annihilation of SNAP in the state elections is going to make parties in Sabah think twice about not choosing to cooperate with Pakatan. I am sure that there a lot of young candidates in Sabah hoping for similar breakthrough in the state elections. This situation will be replicated throughout Malaysia.

Politically, BN is facing a Japanese syndrome (aging syndrome). Youth, qualification and dynamism are the assets in politics. Not many youths are attracted to join the BN towkays parties. Towkays or tycoons are often not easily accessible. Urban voters are looking for representatives who can serve their interests, outspoken and hard workers.

Najib and the rest of BN component parties need to be able to reenergize their parties by recruiting young, credible, smart and energetic new members and candidates or risk suffering a worse defeat than 2008.

For Pakatan, it is obvious that Dap has provided a sturdy stewardship to their onslaught of Sarawak. It's influence and credibility is going skyrocket in Sarawak and places the party has a reasonable presence throughout Malaysia.

PKR needs to learn from the outcome too. They may have achieved an increase of 300% in their winning margin (from 1 to 3 seats) the party has failed to convince the Dayaks, Ibans and other indigenous groups to vote for them.

For example, a Dap candidate would have won Senadin comfortably but PKR lost the seat by a slim margin of 58. Two of PKR candidates See and Baru Bian are popular lawyer activists in their own rights. The party lost 46 out of 49 seats it had contested. This is hardly impressive.

The three parties, Dap, Pas and PKR, should have realised that any weak link in their partnership is not going to help them defeat BN if the parties do not work hard to address their internal issues and weaknesses.

PKR could temporarily seek some refuge by winning three seats but the party could hardly be counted on to deliver more rural and semi-rural seats if nothing is being done to address its internal issues.

The last thing I would like to see is racialization of the Sarawak elections. The political dichotomy in Sarawak is quite clear. It is Urban vs Rural political models rather than Chinese vs Non-Chinese. Urban voters who had contributed to Dap's stunning victories and huge margins are made up of also urban Dayaks, Ibans and the rest who gave the party its victories especially in seats such as Batu Kawah and Dudong.

One thing is sure in Sarawak after 416 - the political landscape has shifted. I have an advice to all parties - ignore it(the shift) at your own peril. The desire for a real change, an accountable government, anti-corruption, a fair deal and responsible governance to inspire positive socio-economic development are far more important than any personalities in Sarawak.

It is time for BN to focus on these issues rather than Anwar Ibrahim and his alleged scandals.

Sarawak - A Wind of Change?

Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak probably did not expect the Sarawak state elections turning out to become such an intense battle. He even proclaimed that this is the toughest electoral battle in the history of Sarawak.

Well, he may well be right. PM Najib’s may have tasted sweet victories in the last few by-elections in the Peninsula Malaysia and Sabah but his 1Malaysia spirit is slow to catch on in Sarawak. There is a danger than the gains he had accumulated in the last year may be easily overwhelmed and drowned by the outcome of Sarawak state elections.

There are simply too many issues presented on a silver platter for the opposition parties to use against the state leadership of Chief Minister Pahen Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.

Taib is the most favourite punching bag for the Dap leaders and candidates in their election campaigns. They have created jingles, songs and slogans taunting his leadership, alleged controversies and rather unkindly, his white hair.

But the state elections have long thrown out civility and courtesy. Both race and religion cards have been used to the tilt especially the desecration of Alkitab and the use of ‘Allah’ in Malay Bible issues.

Personal attacks, sexual misconduct allegations, vandalism of election posters and billboards and intimidation of election workers have been reported throughout the state.

On the other hand, both sides are also engaged in cyber attacks. One side trying to bring down or hack into sites which critical of the state government, the other side trying to use the online platform and social networking tools to circulate and generate more criticisms and negative perception of the state ruling coalition.

Surprising, a few Peninsula based activists such as former Bar Council chairperson S. Ambiga, Bersih’s Dr Wong Chin Huat and MCLM chairperson Harris Ibrahim had been denied entry into Sarawak. It is not too hard to gauge if this is a right move taken by the Barisan state government.

Both sides have been engaged in very negative election campaigns.

Apart from taunts, crude personal attacks and political rhetoric, none of the contesting parties have stepped out to engage in proper and beneficial policy debates to demonstrate how they can help to make Sarawak a better place to live in.
There is crucial need to address several critical socio-economic issues which are affecting the livelihood of the people.

On a short visit to Sibu, I have heard complaints from local businessmen of a lack of business opportunities in the state. In this regard, it would be crucial for an aspiring government to discuss solid plans on how to rejuvenate the economy of Sarawak.

Sibu was a prosperous town. Some of the locals boasted to me that even legendary songstress, the late Teresa Teng, had visited and performed in the clubs here.
It is quite obvious that the perceived ‘wealth’ of Sarawak which is resource rich does not match the state of its infrastructure and public amenities. It is not difficult to find huge and tastefully designed bungalows in the cities but the roads and public infrastructure could easily put Sarawak 30 years behind Peninsula Malaysia.

Slightly 20km from the city centre, the glaring socio-economic disparity slowly sinks in. We saw some shabby wooden houses along a busy street of Sibu. My local host told me that these houses are at least 100 years old but still a mile better than some of the long houses.

The disparity and socio-economic contrast has created mounting resentments against the state government.

Sarawak is going through a socio-political transition which may be beyond the comprehension of the ruling regime. This is a common dilemma for any regime after a long spell in power. Leaders become detached from the reality on the ground.
PBB leaders had warned the opposition not to bring into Sarawak their crude and aggressive brand of politics. However, judging from the response of Sarawak voters, they may allow their curiosity to rule the day.

Pakatan election campaigns which are colourful, loud and complete with a mascot have attracted massive crowd to their ceramah. On the other hand, the presence of their West Malaysia counterparts has strengthened the opposition parties in Sarawak. Many of the curious voters came out to listen to what Lim Guan Eng, Khalid Ibrahim and Nik Aziz have done for their respective states. There is bound to be a comparison with Sarawak.

Moreover, with accessibility to the internet Sarawak voters have access to some information which is normally not covered in local mainstream media and they are not going to tolerate any raw deal.

It is difficult or impossible to compartmentalize Sarawak politics and keep it away from the influence of West Malaysia. Both coalitions must be ready to face a more assertive Sarawak electorate.

Another transition which would be interesting to watch is the dominance of conglomerates and local tycoons over the state politics. Some of the biggest conglomerates are putting up their candidates in the state elections.

The outcome of the electoral contests in seats contested by candidates supported by these conglomerates is going to determine if family ties, wealth and social status can continue to dominate local politics.

So far, I sense a growing awareness among voters of their democratic rights to choose a government which can serve the people and serve them honestly.

The ruling coalition cannot afford to ignore the plights and grouses of Sarawakians. Some of the allegations against the state leadership should be addressed immediately to show that it is not oblivious to their concerns.

Another myth – Sarawak is fixed deposit for the ruling coalition – might be broken this coming 16th April. Whatever the outcome, the state is set for a regime change in the near future.

For the opposition, they may have successfully made a political figure a very effective punching bag but their political rhetoric needs to grow into something more solid especially for a state which is in need of viable solutions to address its lack of socio-economic development and to catch up with some of the more developed states in West Malaysia.

Change is set to happen in Sarawak regardless of the winners.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lynas Scare & Insensitive Government

I have spoken up on the Lynas rare earth plant in Pahang on numerous occasions. It appears that the government, both state and federal, is insensitive and stubborn. The ruling regime has refused to listen to the people and their fears.

It appears that even the Australian people do not want the radio active waste being shipped back to their own backyard. Worse, a friend pointed out that we are giving a 12-year tax exemption to the operator of the plant. This is another example of arrogance of power.

It appears to me that Barisan wants to lose more elections and more states before it can eventually wake up from its slumber. I am not surprised if they might even lose the state of Pahang in the next general elections if this issues is not addressed.

Which is more important, ketuanan Melayu or health? Ask the Malays in Pahang especially Kuantan and they will be able to give a straight answer.

Get wise!

Do we need to sound so desperate? Is the acceptance of Lynas investment regardless of the health risks shows that we are no longer attractive to productive and knowledge based investors?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sarawak Dilemma

The longest serving Chief Minister in Malaysia, Taib Mahmud, is the prime target in Sarawak. It is without a doubt that Taib is very unpopular in the urban areas especially among the Chinese voters.

I was informed that the Opposition is making huge gains in Miri, Sibu, Bintulu, Limbang and to a certain extent in Kuching. During my short trip to Sibu, it is undeniably obvious that SUPP may find it extremely hard to keep its seats in Sibu and Lanang.

But Barisan is caught in a difficult situation. It does not really take a fully committed and united opposition front to dent its hope of capturing two thirds majority in the state elections. PM Najib is in a quandary. He cannot criticize nor praise Taib.

Both ways just won't work for the voters in Sarawak. He had hinted at an earlier retirement for Taib but the latter was not willing to let go anytime soon. Afterall, it is not easy for a person in power for so long to live life as a normal elected assemblyman. Taib needs to be in the limelight.

The greatest challenge is to shift the whole attention away from Taib and focus on the capability of the federal government. However, Najib reacted too late and too little.

It took him almost 5 days to position himself within the Sarawak campaign. It is too late for Taib to wranggle free from the trap set up for him by the opposition. It is better for the PM to be frank about his assessment of Taib.

Taib did not do a good job in developing Sarawak. This is a fact by looking at the infrastructure even in big towns like Sibu. Privately built houses are nice, attractive and huge but these houses looked odd in an area where the infrastructure is way behind that of a city.

Taib has ignored and neglected the needs of his people. The fact that he did nothing to deny or reject the mountain of accusations against him e.g. corruption, land grab, abuse of power etc. is not going to put his leadership in a good light. Taib remains a Sarawak dilemma.

Even he chooses to step down as a CM after the state elections, it is hard to imagine him fading away. Any indication of Taib being the puppet master after his retirement is going to create an effect worse than what the Barisan is already facing in Sarawak now. The only salvation for Barisan is to recruit and use good people in government.

It cannot ignore the need to revitalize and reenergize in order to renew the party's ability to lead for the next decade. I had warned some people close to the ruling regime that it may not take the 13th GE for Barisan to fall but possibly in the 14th GE. If the coalition remains arrogant and detached from the reality, the only thing sure is defeat.

Appreciation of Love Musical Concert - Press Conference


Date: 14th April

Time: 3.30pm

Venue: Peony Room, Doubletree Hilton, Jalan Tun Razak, KL

Guest of Honour: Chen Zhao Rong (Taiwan Artiste)

Organizer: GFW


Ticket sale for the concert will be launched at the press conference.

Monday, April 11, 2011

From Sibu With Love

Thanks to a good friend, I was invited to join him on his trip to his wife's aunt home in Sibu. He is keen political observer, so am I.

Before my trip there, I was told that it was or still is the wealthiest town in Sarawak. It was partially true. There were many big bungalows. The presence of a number of big companies was quite evident e.g. Rimbunan Hijau, CMS, KTS, CCK etc.

However, apart from the privately built huge bungalows, infrastructure in the town of Sibu is agonizing and poor. Locals there told us that we should not be surprised seeing many Toyota Hilux and the likes on the streets.

Local kancils, myvis and protons would not survive the potholes and poor road condition in the city. The main road taking us to the airport was not even lighted up at night.

A number of indegineous people were seen living among these bungalows, alas in their shabby wooden shacks. Most parts of the interior are still without clean water and electricity. My friend's uncle told us that he is making a brisk business selling generator sets. His business has picked up since the election campaign started because most the ceremah venues would need his petrol/diesel powered generator sets.

On the way back to his house, our host showed us Taib Mahmud's holiday home in Sibu. It was said to be given to him for free by the developer. Not too bad being a CM of one of the resource rich but poorest states in Malaysia. It surely comes with a lot of free perks.

Outside his holiday home, parked several luxury cars including Benz, Bently and a SUV - all black in colour. It was built on a 10 acre land.

Issues such as ketuanan Melayu, Perkasa and sex video do not have any impact here. Taib Mahmud and corruption are two of the most contentious issues in Sibu. An anonymous voter told us that Malaysia & Sarawak must be saved from corruption or we will perish together.

Barisan must have surely paid a huge gamble to allow Taib Mahmud to spearhead the elections until yesterday when PM Najib announced that he will be spending six days campaigning in Sarawak. It is left to be seen if PM Najib presence will have a huge impact in Sarawak. It might work for the rural voters who are traditionally too weak and helpless to vote for others except for the 'dacing'.

However, it is crucial for Barisan to recognize that the Sarawak election this time is also about generational change and transition. It is left to be seen if big corporations, elite politicians and rich families can continue to dominate the politics of Sarawak.

The younger generations are becoming more rebellious. Sarawak is facing accute brain drain too. More than 200k young Sarawakians are working abroad mainly in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. A company boss complained that it is so difficult to hire a technician here.

Political change takes years or even decades. But it is safe to say that Barisan should ignore these signals and signs at its own peril. The change of the Sarawak political landscape is already happening.

Pakatan leaders do not come talking hot air. Their leaders such as Lim Guan Eng, Nik Aziz and Khalid Ibrahim are Chief Ministers in their own rights. They have been sharing their KPIs too with the locals.

A few young Chinese campaign workers I met told me that they had already booked their tickets to visit Penang. They must have obviously read about Penang's recent hall of fame - listed by Yahoo! as the top 10 places you must visit at least in a lifetime.

I was in Sibu for only two days. What it takes conservative Foochows and Sibu people to come out in drove for the opposition ceramahs and stayed back way after their sleeping hours should translate into a cause for concern for Barisan.

Barisan/SUPP campaign is obviously lacking in spirit and creativity. They are trying to play up the PAS Islamic state threat. If it does not work even in Peninsula Malaysia, they should save their energy and focus on how SUPP can put the pressure on PBB and Taib Mahmud to return Sarawak to its past glory and return the land and wealth to the people.

It is hilarious to see SUPP candidates putting up posters bearing their younger looking pictures (probably taken 20 years ago) just to narrow the age gap compared to DAP younger looking and obviously younger candidates.

My hunch tells me that it might be difficult for SUPP to keep a clean slate in Sibu. Money is not everything. Some very rich tycoons in Barisan should learn how to appreciate talents and credible people. The failure to attract good people into their party is going to magnify the aging factor.

But some of these mega rich tycoons, I met some in Peninsula too, are simply too detached from the political reality on the ground.

Good luck to both Barisan and Pakatan!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Another Death or 'Suicide' at the MACC?

Who said that it is impossible for lightning to strike twice and at the same place?

Customs Department Deputy Director Ahmad Sarbani Mohamed was found sprawled on the first floor after falling from the third floor of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) building on Jalan Cochrane this morning. He was already dead when found.

Again friends and relatives could not believe that Sarbani may have taken his own life. This case is probably going to be a repeat of the Teoh Beng Hock saga. Again, the MACC would be blamed for causing another death of a suspect/witness. It may not be fair to blame the MACC without first conducting a thorough investigation.

Let's hope that the next investigation would not be embarrassing again for the commission when its officers are found to have committed gross misconduct. It looks like there is a W-I-P in the MACC despite the restructuring and rebranding exercise conducted two years ago.

TBH and now the Sarbani death in custody is going to put another nail on the commission coffin. The government must conduct a thorough study and review on the method, system and mindset of the officers and the organization. MACC is in a deep crisis at the moment.

Nothing less than a full transparent process to investigate the deaths is going to help the commission regain its relevance.